Investigate and critically reflect on the ways in which viewers react to same-sex romantic screen kisses

 

Introduction

Today a man kissing a woman on film or television can appear tame and even banal. A cynical interpretation of this is to suggest that the only way to make kissing exciting in the twenty first century is to show two men doing it. Certainly same sex kissing can be controversial on primetime television, for example the gay kiss in The Bill (Fig. 1) attracted one hundred and seventy complaints, the largest number for any single programme in 2002 (Ofcom, www).

Fig. 1

But a gay kiss can also attract viewers, for example, when the gay kiss in Coronation Street (Fig. 2) was broadcast in October 2003, the programme attracted a fifty four point seven per cent audience share (yabedo, www).

Fig. 2

The same sex kissing I will be exploring in this essay is exclusively male to male, because, as Vito Russo remarks, the notion of 'the gay man' both defines and antagonises the notion of straight masculinity (Russo: 1987, 5). To try to understand why some people have such a strong reaction to gay kissing, I decided to poll my fellow students at the University of Wales Aberystwyth (UWA). The results from this survey make up the first part of this essay.

 

Part I: Survey Results

This survey took the form of an attitude test. I posted twenty statements on the internet to which respondents could "strongly agree", "agree", be "undecided", "disagree", or "strongly disagree".  I received hundreds of replies, but restricted myself to processing two hundred, due to time constraints. Although the sample number is large enough to be significant, it must be noted that generalisations from this survey only apply to undergraduate students in an age range of eighteen to twenty four years. See the appendix for a more detailed write up of this survey.

What the survey showed was the majority of people at UWA were tolerant of gay kissing being shown on television, but less tolerant if the kiss was passionate and quite intolerant of the idea of a gay kiss being featured on a children's programme. For example, in answer to the statement: "It is OK to show a gay kiss on television," eighty eight per cent agreed that it was OK, five point five per cent were undecided and thirteen point five per cent disagreed. However, if the kiss was passionate, there was a marked drop in tolerance, with fifty eight point five per cent agreeing, twelve per cent being undecided and twenty nine point five percent disagreeing. When I asked if they would object to a gay kiss being featured on a children's programme like Grange Hill, fifty nine per cent said they would object, with twenty one per cent being undecided and nineteen per cent disagreeing.

For the purposes of the survey, I termed people with a negative response to gay kissing, homophobes and people with a tolerant response, homophiles. Putting a value on each respondent led to a spread of results, which could display the degree of homophobia or homophilia in each (see the appendix for more details). The 'y' axis of the graph (Fig. 3) shows a range of zero in the centre extending to either plus forty (extreme homophilia), or minus forty (extreme homophobia) while the 'x' axis shows the number of respondents. This revealed that eighty nine percent of the two hundred respondents were homophilic, with a score of plus one or above, while eleven per cent of the sample (twenty two people) was homophobic, with a score of minus one or below. Just one respondent was 'neutral' with a score of zero. The average score of the sample as a whole was plus twelve point three (mean).

Fig. 3

The line through the graph is a trend line. This shows a predicted maximum homophobic score (based on the patterning of the sample as a whole) of minus seven. However the actual maximum score was minus thirty six, with an average homophobic score of minus thirteen point two. The severity of the drop off in the 'homophobic' respondents suggests that 'homophobes' are much more likely to have stronger views than the majority of 'homophilic' respondents. Therefore 'homophobes' are more conspicuous because of the strength of their opinions, rather than the strength of their numbers.

What this survey indicates is that the vast majority of people are supportive of homosexual kissing on television. This finding is contrary to the often quoted right-wing discourse of a 'silent majority' who are characterised as being opposed to homosexuality. Of course this survey is limited in its application, but its results correlate with a 1999 poll that found that sixty six per cent of 16 to 24-year-olds, seventy per cent of 24 to 35-year-olds and forty five per cent of 55 to 64-year-olds thought gay scenes were acceptable on television (BBC, www). Based on the survey, my speculative assumption is that a small minority, because they hold strong hostile opinions to homosexuality, are more likely to complain if scenes of gay kissing are shown on television. This hypothesis posits that the one hundred and seventy people who complained about the gay kiss in The Bill, for example, are part of this minority; certainly such a homophobic response would not be representative of the views of the majority of the television audience who study at UWA.

 

Part II: The representation of kissing

It is important to consider what the representation of kissing itself represents, in other words to ask what a kiss means, whichever gender happens to be performing it. I will explore the notion of kissing from a number of viewpoints. First from a psychoanalytic interpretation that draws on Freud's theory of infantile sexuality, second from a semiotic analysis of kissing in classical Hollywood films, third from analysing kissing in broader cultural contexts and finally from a discussion of the representation of male same-sex kissing from the 1960s onward.

 

Psychoanalytic interpretation

Sigmund Freud saw kissing as part of the individual's biphasic development, which defines the sexual relationship we have to ourselves and to other people (Phillips: 1994, 102). In his Three Essays on Sexuality, Freud emphasised that the individual’s first formative relationship with the world is an oral one, and that sucking at the mother’s breast is the prototype of all the subsequent loving relations a person will experience in their lifetime (ibid., 103 - 104).

The journey from sucking to kissing begins when pleasure and nourishment are inextricably linked in breast feeding, but as the infant grows older, the dual food/pleasure function is separated and the infant experiences a new sexual satisfaction independent of the need for nourishment, although still dependent on the mother's breast. Eventually the infant will learn to pleasure itself and substitutes its own body for the mother's, as an object of sexual pleasure. But it is only when the infant reaches adolescence, that it will again seek out other bodies to satisfy its sexual desire, particularly other mouths. This is because the mouth is one of the few parts of a person's body that they can not kiss (ibid., 106) and because, in fantasy and psychology, there is a connection between mouths and genitals, which means that kissing is seen as a "softened hint" of the sexual act. (ibid., 104)

As Adam Phillips points out, the act of kissing can never be fully separated from masticatory signifiers. The kiss itself is a sign of taming, or of managing the possibility, in fantasy, of biting and devouring the other person. But in the act of kissing this desire is reciprocally managed and distinctions cannot be drawn as to who is devouring whom, because everything becomes blurred in an act of giving and taking (ibid., 103) Kissing is therefore a paradoxical sign of tenderness and at the same time brutality, that has the potential to repulse as much as it attracts. Kissing is also often a signifier of love, but it also is a reminder of how much love is bound to the functions of self-preservation. The lovers kiss is an enactment of the need for nourishment, both for the soul and the belly.

Kissing and Hollywood

Some of the psychoanalytic implications of kissing were manifest in the horrified reaction of one audience member to the film, The Kiss (1896). This film featured the first cinematic kiss between a man and a woman, described as: "the prolonged pasturing of... lips... magnified to gargantuan proportions," so as to become "absolutely disgusting" (Mathews: 1994, 9). The films of the classical Hollywood period were compelled to restrain these osculatory excesses, as the Catholic legion of decency and the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) strove to curtail the 'immorality of cinema' by enforcing a Production Code, which was active from 1933 until the 1960s. The code expressly forbade "excessive and lustful kissing" and prohibited showing any representation of any other sort of sexual passion (Cook: 1981, 266 - 267). Hence the convention of 'Hollywood kissing' where the lips are held tightly together in a frozen embrace (Fig. 3) and passion is signified by a crescendo in the music.

Fig. 4

Kissing may be, "the publicly acceptable representation of private sexual life" (Phillips: 1994, 104), But in this era, cinematic kisses were like a palimpsest that concealed a number of other—usually sexual—meanings. The writer Gore Vidal spoke of the need to intimate in a screenplay "with a look or a gesture," what was not allowed to be directly communicated (Celluloid Closet film). For the same reasons, Hollywood conventions of kisses took on certain meanings. For example, the forced kiss of a male and female protagonist followed by her slapping him on the face signified a sexual assault, or the kiss where the female resists at first, but then yields, signified a sexual conquest. This observation leads to two assumptions, first that the representation of kissing was more codified, and therefore more significant, than it might have been if the restrictions of the Production Code hadn't existed. Second, that audiences recognised this, and this awareness influenced their interpretation of Hollywood kissing as well as kissing in other representational contexts. This hypothesis would explain some of the hostility to same sex kissing, because the legacy of Hollywood means that a kiss is not just a kiss in the context of representation, but a sexual act. Therefore, if you show a homosexual kiss, you also suggest sexual acts which are not regarded as publicly acceptable.

In addition to the symbolic weight given to kissing by Hollywood, there are many other conventional cultural meanings of kisses to contend with. For example in the marriage ceremony, where the ritualistic declaration of love is sealed with a kiss, or in the commonly held supposition that prostitutes do not kiss. These two examples de-emphasise the idea of kissing as a sign for sex, and make it stand for love. I don't mean to suggest that Hollywood has under-represented this aspect of kissing, the point is that kissing is a signifier that carries with it a complex of powerful meanings. These connote love or lust or both and the message can appear to be convoluted, even contradictory at times. Finally there is the 'kiss of life,' which strictly speaking isn't a kiss at all, but a resuscitation procedure in first aid. However the sexual connotations of this type of 'kiss' were explored in this recent commercial for Marmite (Fig 5). A male life guard is shown eating a Marmite sandwich, before giving a man mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, at which point the victim starts to kiss him back. 

Fig. 5

This playing with the signifiers of kissing allows the advertisers to get away with showing a risqué situation. Although the Marmite advert did attract a few complaints, the Independent Television Commission (ITC) did not upheld them, ruling that the kiss was a "clearly jokey scenario" (Commercial Closet, www). But this kiss can also be seen as revealing how important social codes are for contextualising responses to certain acts. For instance in this example, how the sliding of the signifiers between a 'kiss of life' and a 'kiss of passion', can frame the ITC's interpretation, in a discourse that makes same sex kissing acceptable for mainstream consumption.

 

A history of same sex kissing

Whatever same sex kissing signifies for the act of kissing itself, this is only one aspect of its representational function, the other takes the form of a judgement as to the sexual orientation of the people involved. This judgement, in its most severe form, was illustrated in the cinema's first male to male screen kiss (Russo: 1987, 138). In A View from the Bridge (1962) an Italian dockworker (Ray Vallone) accuses his niece's boyfriend (Jean Sorel) of being "not quite right," by grabbing the youth and kissing him on the mouth in front of witnesses. "That's what you are!" vallone shouts, throwing the boy aside (ibid.) (Fig. 6).


Fig. 6

As Adam Phillips perceptively remarks, kisses can function like a mini subplot: revealing a personal history (Phillips, 1994, 102). Taking his point, we can read the kiss in A View from the Bridge as a mini discourse on the state of American masculinity in the 1960s, particularly the dim view it took of male to male affection. In this sense, a kiss can equally represent a declaration of hate, as it can one of love and this particular kiss was staged solely for the shock value it had for 1960s audiences (Russo: 1987, 138). Ironically the shock would have been much greater if the kiss had been tender. As an illustration of this point, the director John Slessinger recalled the extreme reticence his film crew felt about showing a passionate kiss between a gay doctor Daniel Hirst (Peter Finch) and his lover Bob Elkin (Murray Head) in Sunday Bloody Sunday (1971). According to Slessinger, the screenwriter Penelope Gilliatt wanted the kiss done as a long shot in silhouette, but he said, "no way, it should just happen" (Celluloid Closet film, 1995) (Fig. 7).

Fig. 7

A decade later, when mainstream cinema audiences could have witnessed full frontal nudity in Last Tango in Paris (1973) and a multiple rape in Straw Dogs (1971), the screenwriter Barry Sandler recalled how the sight of two men kissing on a cinema screen could still cause a mini riot. At a screening of Making Love (1982), "the tension kept escalating and when they had the first kiss there was an explosion in the theatre: people panicked… and started storming up the isles" (ibid.).

A kiss between two men implies sexual orientation in a way that a kiss between a man and a woman cannot. As Vito Russo remarks, if a man kisses a woman and shouts, "that's what you are" audiences would not know what the accusation meant (Russo: 1987, 138). Denotatively, a kiss between a man and a man represents homosexuality, but the convention for cinema is to avoid showing homosexual acts and instead to 'brand' a person as a homosexual through the use of certain signifiers, such as: effeminacy, a mincing walk, a flamboyant style of dress etc., which merely hint at the sexual orientation of the subject. As Richard Dyer remarks, they function to make visible what is invisible (Dyer: 1993, 24). However these conventions for substituting connotative for denotative signs of homosexuality were reversed in Sidney Lumet's murder mystery Deathtrap (1982), as neither Christopher Reeve nor Michael Caine played his character as stereotypically gay (Russo: 1987, 295) (Fig. 9).

Fig. 8

Thus the moment when they kiss functions as a major plot twist in the narrative. This illustrates that showing two men kissing is enough to convince audiences of the character's 'true' sexual orientation, no matter what has been shown before. The power of the kiss as a homosexual signifier attests to the power of the heterosexual policing of sexuality. For homosexuality is in society seen as crossing the Rubicon between being 'normal' and being 'other'. Heterosexual men are not allowed to 'play' at kissing each another, hence gay kissing is always taken very seriously. In this sense, it reveals not just a hidden sexuality, but a whole hidden discourse of social control.

"Mainstream people dislike homosexuals," Quentin Crisp remarked, "because they can't help concentrating on what homosexual men do to one another. And when you contemplate what people do, you think of yourself doing it" (Celluloid Closet film, 1995). This 'dislike' strikes me as being similar to Milan Kundera's conception of vertigo, not as a fear of falling, but as a fear of succumbing to the desire to fall (Kundera: 1984, 60). The only difference with vertigo is that the fear of falling is justified by the notion of self-preservation, while with the fear of homosexuality, all that is at stake is the preservation of the social-self, as defined by homophobic notion of having a 'normal' sexual desire. But as the vast majority of responses to my survey imply, these are not 'norms' at all, in the sense that they are held to be true by the majority of people.

If there were really such a thing as heterosexual desire—as completely different from homosexual desire—the representations of homosexuality would presumably not be a source of anxiety to heterosexual people. This dual conception of desire is a modern phenomenon, but it is an idea that is so ubiquitous, that it is hard to imagine an alternative way of thinking. The recent controversy in America over Oliver Stone's biopic of Alexander the Great illustrates this point. In the History of Sexuality, Michel Foucault deconstructs the idea that the Ancient Greeks of Alexander's time were bisexual. Foucault problematises such modern judgements, precisely because they are predicated on an assumption of two kinds of desire that the Ancient Greeks simply did not recognise. To desire a man or a woman for them was simply to have a natural appetite for "beautiful" human beings, their gender was not the issue  (Foucault: 1992, 188).

Fear of homosexuality is sustained in darkness, by not showing them, homosexual acts become lurid in imaginations where curiosity is allowed to fester through prohibition. Showing a same-sex kiss banishes these phantasms and brings the act back to the realm of the ordinary. Whatever significance a kiss might have for heterosexuals is neither magnified nor diminished when practised by homosexuals. What is different however, is the extraordinary capacity a homosexual kiss has to brand an individual as something other. But this is also an effect of prohibition, an effect of making a kiss into something chimerical and perverse, perhaps resembling the tortuous grimace shown at the end of the film The Sergeant (1968) (Fig. 9). Such cruel kisses make a mockery of love and desire, not of sexual orientation.

Fig. 9

 


 

Illustrations

Fig. 1: Coronation Street Kiss, URL = http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/

tv_and_radio/3238111.stm [accessed: 2/12/04]

 

Fig. 2: The Bill Kiss, URL = http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/

tv_and_radio/2213724.stm [accessed: 3/12/04]

 

Fig. 3: Roderick Munday, Excel chart of the total homophobia/homophilia

of the respondents a survey into attitudes to gay kissing, 2005

 

Fig. 4: Hollywood kiss montage, URL = http://www.fondazioneitalianelmondo.com/

and http://members.aol.com/humorone/cover.JPG [accessed 24/1/05]

 

Fig. 5: Marmite, Lifeguard Kiss, URL = http://www.commercialcloset.org/

images/data/COMCLOSET_PICS/picture/ [accessed: 24/1/05]

 

Fig. 6: Jean Sorel and Ray Vallone in A View from the Bridge, Source: Russo, The Celluloid Closet, 1987, p138

 

Fig. 7: Peter Finch kisses Murray Head in Sunday Bloody Sunday, Source: Russo, The Celluloid Closet, 1987, p210

 

Fig. 8: Christopher Reeve and Michael Kane in Deathtrap, Source: Russo, The Celluloid Closet, 1987, p295

 

Fig. 9: Rod Steiger kisses John Phillip Law in The Sergeant, Source: Russo, The Celluloid Closet, 1987, p167

 


 

Film and Television References

Alexander, Oliver Stone, (Dir.) 2004

Bill (The), Gay Kiss, (TV) Broadcast 5/10/03

Celluloid Closet (The), Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, (Dirs.) 1995

Coronation Street Gay Kiss, (TV) Broadcast 5/10/03

Deathtrap Sidney Lumet (Dir.) 1982

Last Tango In Paris, Bernado Bertolucci, (Dir.) 1973

Making Love, Arthur Hiller, (Dir.) 1982

Sergeant (The), John Flynn, (Dir.) 1968

Straw Dogs, Sam Peckinpah, (Dir.) 1971

Sunday Bloody Sunday, John Slessinger, (Dir.) 1971

View from a Bridge (A), Sidney Lumet (Dir.) 1962

(source for movie information: Internet Movie Database, URL = www.uk.imdb.com [accessed 24/11/04])

 


 

References

Commercial Closet, Marmite, Lifeguard Kiss, URL = http://www.commercialcloset.

org/cgi-bin/iowa/portrayals.html?record=1138 [accessed: 24/1/05]

 

Cook, David A., A History of Narrative Film, London, W.W. Norton and Company, 1981

 

Dyer, Richard, The Matter of Images, London: Routledge, 1993

 

Kundera, Milan, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, London: Faber and Faber, 1984

 

Mathews, Tom Dewe, Censored, London: Chatto & Windus Ltd, 1994

 

BBC, Tipping the Velvet Article, URL = http://www.bbc.co.uk/drama/tipping/article_4.shtml [accessed 14/12/04]

 

Ofcom, ITC Notes: Sexual Portrayal, URL = http://www.ofcom.org.uk/static/archive/itc/itc_publications/itc_notes/view_note84.html [accessed 1/12/04]

 

Phillips, Adam, On Kissing, Tickling and Being Bored, London: Faber and Faber, 1994

 

Russo, Vito, The Celluloid Closet: Revised Edition, London: Harpers & Row Publishers, 1987

 

Yabedo, Corrie gay kiss pulls 14 million, URL =
http://www.yabedo.com/news/id/11337 [accessed 5/12/04]

 


 

Appendix: Survey Results

From Monday 10, to Sunday 23 January 2005, I processed 230 replies to my survey. Of those, 30 people failed to complete the form and were discounted; this left 200 forms to analyse. All my replies were students at the University of Wales Aberystwyth (UWA), and therefore it must be born in mind that any generalisations I make from the findings, applies only to this group. For example this survey can say nothing about people not in higher education, or older than 24.

In the name category:

71 (35.5%) gave their name and 129 (64.5) chose to remain anonymous

In the age category:

188 (94%) were18 to 24 and 12 (6%) were 24* to 44.

(* Note this was a mistake in the survey forms, 24 should have been written as 25)

In the gender category:

115 (57.5%) were Female and 85 (42.5%) were Male

In the sexual orientation category:

171 (85.5) were straight; 14 (7%) were gay and 15 (7.5%) were bisexual

In the newspaper category:

Evening Standard       

=  2   (1 %)      

Express (Daily)   

=  3   (1.5 %)

Guardian 

=  31 (15.5 %)

Independent    

=   9   (4.5 %)

Mail (Daily)       

=  18  (9 %)

Mirror     

=   8   (4 %)

None 

=   65 (32.5 %)

Other   

=  11  (5.5 %)

Observer     

=   2   (1 %)

Sun      

=  16  (8 %)

Star     

=   2   (1 %)

Telegraph     

=   6   (3 %)

Sunday Times      

=   6   (3 %)

Times      

=  18  (9 %)

Western Mail 

=   3   (1.5 %)

In the comments category:

42 (21%) commented on the survey and 158 (79%) did not comment.

Two examples of results by statement

In answer to ‘s 1’: "It is ok to show a gay kiss on television,"166 (88%) agreed, 11 (5.5%) were undecided and 13 (6.5%) disagreed. However there was a marked drop off in agreement in 's 3': "if they would be ok with a passionate kiss," 117 (58.5%) agreed (37.5% down on 's 1'), 24 (12%) were undecided (6.5 up on 's 1') and 59 (29.5%) disagreed (23% up on 's 1').

Al l the Results by statement

Likert scale key

1 = strongly disagree      2 = disagree    3 = undecided    4 = agree    5 = strongly agree

s 1                   It is ok to show a gay kiss on television.

1 = 8    (4 %)

2 = 5    (2.5 %)

3 = 11  (5.5 %)

4 = 97  (48.5 %)

5 = 79  (39.5 %)

s 2                   It is ok to show a gay kiss on TV, as long as it was not passionate.

1 = 46  (23 %)

2 = 78  (39 %)

3 = 29  (14.5 %)

4 = 35  (17.5 %)

5 = 12  (6 %)

s 3                   It is ok to show a passionate gay kiss on TV.

1 = 29  (14.5 %)

2 = 30  (15 %)

3 = 24  (12 %)

4 = 67  (33.5 %)

5 = 50  (25 %)

s 4                   Gay men are part of real life, so they should be represented in soap

operas.

1 = 10  (5 %)

2 = 3    (1.5 %)

3 = 2    (1 %)

4 = 96  (48 %)

5 = 89  (45.5 %)

s 5                   You don't normally see gay men kissing in the street. So I don't see why I have to watch it in my living room.

1 = 47  (23.5 %)

2 = 60  (30 %)

3 = 36  (18 %)

4 = 33  (16.5 %)

5 = 24  (12 %)

s 6                   Gay men kissing is only shown on primetime TV to boost ratings.

1 = 10  (5 %)

2 = 56  (23.5 %)

3 = 63  (31.5 %)

4 = 61  (30.5 %)

5 = 10  (5 %)

s 7                   Showing men kissing each other on TV promotes homosexuality.

1 = 46  (23 %)

2 = 78  (39 %)

3 = 38  (19 %)

4 = 34  (17 %)

5 = 4    (2 %)

s 8                   Showing a gay kiss on TV opens the floodgates to a more immoral

society.

1 = 107  (53.5 %)

2 = 64    (32 %)

3 = 18    (9 %)

4 = 8      (4 %)

5 = 3      (1.5 %)

s 9                   If you are allowed to show certain sexual acts between a man and a

woman on primetime TV, then it should be ok to show two

men doing the same things.

1 = 9    (4.5 %)

2 = 17  (8.5 %)

3 = 31  (15.5 %)

4 = 81  (40.5 %)

5 = 62  (31 %)

s 10                 I would let my children watch a gay kiss on a primetime TV

programme (please answer this question even if you don't have

children).

1 = 14  (7 %)

2 = 16  (8 %)

3 = 34  (17 %)

4 = 90  (45 %)

5 = 46  (23 %)

s 11                 I think it is bad when a gay couple are shown on TV, but they are not

allowed to kiss!

1 = 22  (11 %)

2 = 37  (18.5 %)

3 = 42  (21 %)

4 = 65  (32.5 %)

5 = 34  (17 %)

s 12                 I feel uncomfortable watching a heterosexual couple kiss on TV.

1 = 94  (47 %)

2 = 91  (45.5 %)

3 = 8    (4 %)

4 = 5    (2.5 %)

5 = 2    (1 %)

s 13                 I feel uncomfortable watching two men kiss on TV.

1 = 58  (29 %)

2 = 86  (43 %)

3 = 17  (8.5 %)

4 = 30  (15.5 %)

5 = 9    (4.5 %)

s 14                 I would feel uncomfortable watching two men kiss on TV with my

friends.

1 = 52    (26 %)

2 = 102  (52 %)

3 = 15    (7.5 %)

4 = 24    (12 %)

5 = 7      (3.5 %)

s 15                 I would feel uncomfortable watching two men kiss on TV with my

parents.

1 = 35  (17.5 %)

2 = 82  (41 %)

3 = 26  (13 %)

4 = 41  (20.5 %)

5 = 16  (8 %)

s 16                 Homosexual kissing should be banned on TV.

1 = 118  (59 %)

2 = 66    (33 %)

3 = 10    (5 %)

4 = 0      (0 %)

5 = 6      (3 %)

s 17                 Homosexual kissing should be allowed on TV after the 9pm

watershed.

1 = 19  (9.5 %)

2 = 33  (16.5 %)

3 = 42  (21 %)

4 = 78  (39 %)

5 = 28  (14 %)

s 18                 It's okay to show homosexual kissing on TV at anytime.

1 = 15  (7.5 %)

2 = 36  (18 %)

3 = 52  (26 %)

4 = 65  (32.5 %)

5 = 32  (16 %)

s 19                 I would object to a gay kiss being featured on a children's programme

like Grange Hill.

1 = 39  (19.5 %)

2 = 79  (39.5 %)

3 = 42  (21 %)

4 = 21  (10.5 %)

5 = 19  (9.5 %)

s 20                 I would be OK with my friends knowing my opinions about gay

kissing.

1 = 2      (1 %)

2 = 4      (2 %)

3 = 6      (3 %)

4 = 101  (50.5 %)

5 = 87    (43.5 %)

Scoring the results

In order to assess the degree of homophobia versus homophilia of the respondents, I needed to give each of their answers a value. In order to do this I filled out a form as if I were an extreme homophobe and gave each of my answers a negative value. For example, if my hypothetical homophobe strongly disagreed with a 'gay friendly' statement, I would score the answers in the following way:  1 = -2; 2 = -1; 3 =  0; 4 =  +1; 5 = +2. On the other hand, if my homophobe strongly agreed with 'gay unfriendly' a statement, the scoring would be the opposite: 1 = +2; 2 = +1; 3 =  0; 4 = -1; 5 = -2. 

Hypothetical homophobe's results (each scoring –2)

q1 = 1,  q2 = 1, q3 = 1, q4 = 1, q5 = 5, q6 = 5, q7 = 5, q8 = 5, q9 = 1, q10 = 1,

q11 = 1, q13 = 5 ,q14 = 5, q15 = 5, q16 = 5, q17 = 1, q18 = 1, q19 = 5,

The only exception to this method were the responses to the neutral statements, (no. 12 and no. 20) which could not be characterised as particularly homophobic of homophilic. These statements were therefore discounted in this part of the analysis.

This method of scoring led to a spread of results, which could display the degree of homophobia or homophilia in each of the respondents. The range was from zero in the centre extending to either plus forty (extreme homophilia), or minus forty (extreme homophobia).

Fig. 1

One the scored results were compiled the average value could be calculated as a mean score of 12.3, and a median of13, the modal value was split with 10, 14 and 15 all having 11 responses each. The graph (Fig. 1) shows that 177 (89%) of the 200 respondents are homophilic with a score of =1 or above, while 22 people (eleven per cent of the sample) are homophobic with a score of –1 or below. Just 1 respondent was 'neutral' with a score of 0.

Using excel to draw a 'trendline' predicts a maximum homophobic score of  -7 and homophilic score of +32 (Fig 2). However the actual maximum homophobic score is –36, with the average homophobic score being -13.2. The actual homophilic score is +36, with an average homophilic score of 15.5. The severity of the drop off in the homophobic respondents suggests, although the homophobe is a small minority in this sample, that they are much more likely to have strong views than homophilic responses.

Fig. 2

On the subject of holding strong views, it is interesting to compare the most extreme homophobes, who scored minus 30 or below, with the most extreme homophiles, who scored plus 30 or above. A total of 2 homophobes fall into this category, and 3 homophiles. Taken as a percentage of the total homophobe/homophile groups, this means that nine per cent of the 22 homophobes hold strong views as compared with one point six per cent of the 177 homophiles. In other words, if you meet a homophobe, it is five and a half times more likely that they will be strongly homophobic.

Looking at the total scores for each respondent in graphical form with score on the x axis and number with the score on the y axis, gives a loosely normal distribution with the apex of the curve displaced to the right at the mean of 12.3.

Fig. 3

Snapshot 1: Homophobes

22 people scored -1 or below (eleven per cent of the total sample) to qualify as homophobes. The range of homophobic scores was  -1, to –36, with the average being -13.2. Of the 22 homophobes: all were straight (100%), 5 (22.8%) were female, 17 (77.2%) were male, When asked their name, 5 (22.8%) opted to give it (including 3 of the top 5 most militant) and 17 (77.2%) preferred anonymity. When asked if they would be OK with the friends knowing their opinions: 12 (54.5%) strongly agreed, 8 (36.4%) agreed and 2 (9.1%) were undecided.

Snapshot 2: Homophiles

As a comparison I looked at the top 22 homophilic people. The range of scores in this area was +15 to +36, with an average score of +28.3. Counting people in just this section revealed that: 15 (68.2%) of the 22 were straight, 4 (18.2%) were bisexual and 3 (13.6%) were gay; 17 (77.2%) were female and 5 (22.8) were male. When asked their name,12 (54.5%) opted to give it (including 4 of the top 5 who held the strongest views) and 10 (45.5%) preferred anonymity. Of the 3 people with the strongest homophilic views, 2 were straight women and 1 was a straight man. When asked if they would be OK with the friends knowing their opinions,19 (86.4%) strongly agreed, 2 (9.1%) agreed and 1 (4.5%) strongly disagreed.

Snapshot 3: Average scorers

To find 22 people with the most average score, I went to the median average (+13) and counted the 22 on either side of it. The range of scores was +12 to +14. Of the Average scorers: 20 (91%) were straight, 1 (4.5%) was bisexual and 1 (4.5%) was gay; 14 (63.6%) were female and 8 (36.4%) were male. When asked their name, 6 (27.3 %) opted to give it and 16 (72.7 %) preferred anonymity. When asked if they would be OK with the friends knowing their opinions, 4 (18.2 %) strongly agreed, 17 (77.3 %) agreed and 1 (4.5%) strongly disagreed.

Snapshot 4: Homosexuals

There were 14 homosexuals (7% of the total sample). The homosexual score ranged from +11 to +30 with an average score of +21.3. A homosexual woman held the fifth position for the most strongly opinionated homophile, a homosexual man was sixth. Of the 14 homosexuals, 3 (21.4%) were female and 11 (78.6%) were male, 7 (50%) gave their name and 7 (50%) did not. When asked if they would be OK with the friends knowing their opinions,11 (78.6%) strongly agreed and 3 (21.4%) agreed

Snapshot 4: Bisexuals

There were 15 bisexuals (7.5% of the total sample). The bisexual score ranged from +7 to +30, with an average score of +20.2. Of the 15 bisexuals, 11 (73.3%) were female and 4 (27.7%)were male; 7 (46.7%)gave their name and 8 (53.3%) did not. A bisexual woman held the forth position for the most strongly opinionated homophile, while a bisexual man held the forty second strongest view. When asked if they would be OK with the friends knowing their opinions,10 (66.6%) strongly agreed, 4 (27.7%) agreed and 1 (6.7%) disagreed,

Newspapers

The vast majority of the sample (32.5%) did not read newspapers, this meant that most of the newspaper results were too small to process except perhaps in four instances where readership reached double figures (see table 1). Note: the numbers of respondents were small enough to be significantly effected by the inclusion of a small number of individuals with very strong views in a group. For example, the most homophobic person read the Sun and the most homophilic read the Guardian, which altered the Sun's score by –1.5 and the Guardian's by =0.6.

Table 1

Newspaper                     No. of readers                         average score

_________________________________________________________

Guardian                                    31                                +17.6

Daily Mail                                  18                                +13.4

The Times                                  18                                + 9.6

The Sun                                     16                                + 7.5 ___________________________________________________________

 


 

Illustrations

Fig. 1: Roderick Munday, Excel chart of the total homophobia/homophilia

of the respondents a survey into attitudes to gay kissing.

Fig. 2: Roderick Munday, As in Fig. 1, above, but with trend line.

Fig. 1: Roderick Munday, Excel chart of the bell curve of responses.